The last six weeks have seenseveral international forums at which SDP delegates haveparticipated. Young Democrats represented the party at a Council ofAsian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) conference in Bangkok a couple ofweeks ago. Dr Chee Soon Juan is currently at New Haven, Connecticut toaddress a forum at Yale University$CUT$ organised by its Council on Southeast AsiaStudies and International Relations Association.
In midOctober, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha traveled to Lima, Peru to attend theseventh biennial congress of the World Movement for Democracy (WMD).An initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), WMD wasset up in New Delhi in 1999 to strengthen and extend democracyinternationally. Among its activities is a two-yearly congressbringing together activists and politicians from across the world toexchange ideas and share best practices.
Dr Wijeysingha joined500 delegates from about 200 worldwide civil society organisationswhich work on human rights, social justice, anti-poverty, minorityrights and other pro-democracy initiatives. Mainstream andalternative media representatives were present. Malaysiakini, thehighly popular news website across the causeway was represented byits Managing Editor.
The three-day conference was presidedover by WMD Chairperson, Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister ofCanada (pictured, top left). Tawakkol Karman, last year’s Nobel Peace Prizewinner (pictured, right), delivered the keynote address.
DrWijeysingha caught up with Prof Larry Diamond (pictured, below left) of StanfordUniversity who expressed his great pleasure that the annulment ofDr Chee Soon Juan’s bankruptcy was imminent. In this, he was joinedby NED head, Art Kauffman and his senior managers as well asdelegates from elsewhere.
Prof Diamond recently wrote aseminal assessment of global democracy entitled The Spirit ofDemocracy, a copy of which he presented to the SDP when he visitedSingapore in 2010. Dr Wijeysingha presented him in turn with a copyof Dr Chee’s recently published Democratically Speaking.
Thecongress hosted a series of papers and workshops on democratic themesincluding current and new challenges to the spread and deepening ofdemocracy in the world. Among the concerns noted were the scalingback of democratic movements, the challenges in the aftermath of theuprisings in the Middle East, and a parliamentary bill currentlybefore the Ugandan parliament which seeks to make homosexuality acrime punishable by death.
Between sessions delegates mingledwith colleagues from more than eighty countries. Dr Wijeysingha wasable to share updates with colleagues from Malaysia, Vietnam,Cambodia, Mongolia, China, and countries of the African continent.More in-depth discussions were held with regional colleagues and theCouncil for a Community of Democracies on strategies to widen thedemocratic space and citizen participation in the region. DrWijeysingha also held a brief discussion on the treatment of Chineselow-waged workers with the Head of China Labour Bulletin, a prominentlabour pressure group based in Hong Kong.
The congress wasalso the occasion for the launch of the movie, A Whisper to a Roar.Funded by Moroccan Prince Moulay Hicham’s foundation, it examinesdemocracy movements in Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Egypt andZimbabwe. It is a deeply moving tribute to ordinary people’scommitment to human rights and social justice, including a study ofMalaysia’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat which is poised to challenge thelongevity of the Barisan Nasional in General Elections that must beheld by next April. The film will soon be on general release.